Some people were put off when Smith played in Week 3, two days after his second arrest on drunk driving charges in less than two years and a day before he voluntarily went to rehab. We’ve discussed that situation. The 49ers likely allowed Smith to play because they thought he needed to be around the team and it was the best way of making sure he would get treatment.
This is a totally different situation.
Smith has been cleared to resume his normal activity. That happened when, after five weeks, he left treatment on Oct. 28. His physicians wouldn’t have released him if he were not ready to re-enter society. He was cleared to become an NFL player again, and NFL players play on Sundays.
So Smith should play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Did you really expect the 49ers to sit a healthy Smith? He is one of the most dynamic defensive players in the league. If he is able, he will play.
It’s the right thing for Smith. He sought help. He seemingly is doing the right things in his life. He deserves to play.
The biggest question is his condition. San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said how much Smith plays will depend on how quickly he adapts after missing six weeks of football. If Smith shows no signs of wear, expect him to play a lot Sunday.
And if he does, it will simply be a football team making a football decision.